So, guess what we've had here for the past three days? Snow! Plus sub-freezing temperatures! Guess who can't run her kid around and exhaust her when it's so cold outside and there's no place indoors to go? Me! Did I have time to write the next exciting part of The Tank this past week? No! And I'm sorry about that, but honestly, bad nap for her=poor productivity for me. So instead, I'm posting an exclusive excerpt (almost exclusive, the people in my FB group are getting it too) of Cuddly Behavior, Book 5.5 in my Bad Behavior series with L.A. Witt! There is a cat, two cops, and so many ways things can go wrong. The short story comes out tomorrow, if you're interested ;) I'll add a link up here before posting the chapter.
Thanks for your understanding, and I hope you're all as well as can be.
“Come on. It’s only for a few days.” Darren was shamelessly deploying his puppy dog eyes, which was ironic, given that he was trying to persuade me to let a cat stay in our apartment. “She has nowhere else to go!”
I gave my husband my most exasperated glare, but if there was one thing I’d learned since we’d been together, it was that the puppy dog eyes always won. It was like a bullshit version of rock-paper-scissors, except I hadn’t figured out what beat puppy dog eyes yet.
With a sigh, I shifted my glare to the creature in question, which had—in the ten minutes since Darren had opened the cage—made itself at home on the couch. In my spot.
And I’ll be damned if the cat didn’t look right back at me with a glare of its own. As much as I really, really didn’t want a cat even on a short term basis, I had to admit I was impressed by how much contempt radiated from such a small package. Well, “small” compared to a person, maybe. I knew nothing about cat breeds, so God knew what this thing was. Whatever breed could be described as “enormous pile of gray fluff with a pair of disdainful yellow eyes.” I didn’t think cats wagged their tails when they were happy, so the sharp swishing next to its huge body probably didn’t translate to any particular giddiness about being here.
“Is it even friendly?”
“Uh, I think so?” Darren watched it too. “I mean, she was kind of friendly whenever I went by to fed her while Mark was in the hospital. And the whole reason she needs a place to go is because she jumped on him after he got home and messed up his stitches.”
“So does that mean it’s friendly?” I shifted the glare back to him. “Or that it was trying to murder him?”
The faintest smirk played at his lips. “Which version will make you say yes to keeping her?”
I exhaled hard. I wasn’t winning this. I’d known that the moment Darren had told me there was a cat in our living room and a litter box—a fucking litter box!—in the laundry room. “Okay. Fine. But only until Mark is healed enough that it won’t try to murder him.”
“Awesome!” Darren’s face lit up, and it wasn’t just glee because he’d won. He seemed genuinely excited about this fluffy interloper’s presence. “Mark sent over some food and treats for her, so I’ll—”
“Please tell me it doesn’t eat canned food.”
His excitement faltered, and he shot me his please don’t fuck with me look. “Would you stop calling her ‘it.’”
“What am I supposed to call… uh…” I glanced at the cat, and I swear to God it—she—lifted her chin like she was daring me to call her the wrong thing.
“Her name is Harley.” Darren leaned over the back of the couch to scratch behind her ear, which earned him a swat by a giant paw and a look that screamed contempt. He jerked his hand back. “Okay, okay. Jesus.”
“So, friendly, eh?”
Darren rolled his eyes. “I’m going to go get the rest of her things out of the car.”
“The rest of—how much stuff does she have?”
He met my gaze, his expression one of pure innocence. “What? You don’t want the six-foot cat tree in here?”
He snorted, gave my arm a squeeze, and continued toward the door. “I’ll be right back.”
The door shut behind him, and it was just me and Harley in the apartment. We stared at each other.
Then she sat back, jutted one of her back legs into the air, and started licking her asshole.
“Seriously?” I grumbled.
She looked up at me, tongue still sticking out.
Rolling my eyes, I left her to it and went into the kitchen. So we were cat caretakers for the next, what, week? Two weeks? How long did Mark need to recover before his cat wouldn’t fuck him up?
I’d have bet money he was loving this, too. As much as we’d settled the shit between us, there was probably some part of him that still wished he’d been right when he’d tried to burn me. No Internal Affairs detective liked getting bested by the cop he was trying to investigate. We had a truce now, but yeah, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was laughing over the idea that his cat would be shitting in my house for a while. Well, laughing as much as a man could while he was recovering from bullet wounds. Especially after said cat had apparently dive-bombed him.
Darren and I had floated the idea of getting a pet at some point, but the discussion had always involved a dog. There was a week or two in there where Darren got it into his head that a bird might be fun after we’d searched a house containing a very animated and foul-mouthed cockatiel, but that hadn’t lasted. My father-in-law had graciously informed Darren of how much damage a bird could do to a person’s fingers, and suddenly we were talking Black Labs and Golden Retrievers again.
We both liked my daughter’s dog, Scruffy, and we’d have happily let him stay here whenever she did if our apartment allowed it. Unfortunately, this landlord had a policy of no dogs. Cats were fine, though. Lucky me.
I was just opening a beer bottle when the door opened again, and plastic bags crinkled.
“No, no, you can’t go out—no!” More crinkling, plus some shuffling. The door shut harder than Darren usually shut it, and he muttered, “Your dad says you’re an indoor kitty. You can’t go outside without your leash.”
Leash? I mouthed into the silence. Dear God. What had Darren gotten us into?
I took a swig of beer, then moved to the living room, where my usually rational husband was explaining to that furry stack of sentient anger that she was allowed on the couch and the chairs, but that the coffee table was off limits.
He pointed at the floor. “Down. Kitties don’t belong on tables.”
Her tail swished violently, knocking a few file folders and magazines askew. Maybe cats did wag their tails when they were happy? Because she seemed pretty happy about staring defiantly up at him.
“Harley. Get down.”
Swish. Swish. Swish.
I pressed my shoulder against the door frame and brought my beer to my lips. “How’s that working out for you?”
He glared at me, still pointing at the floor as if the cat might respond. During his moment of distraction, she reached up and swatted at his finger.
“Ow!” He jerked his hand away from her and shook it. “Listen here, little missy…”
I choked on my beer.
“You deserved that,” he muttered, inspecting his finger.
“So did you.” I leaned into the kitchen to put the bottle down—I didn’t dare set it on the table next to the fluffy poltergeist—and crossed the floor. “How bad did she get you?”
“Eh. It’s not bad.” He shook his hand in the air and gritted out, “Just like a paper cut. Hurts like hell.”
“Bet she’s pleased with herself, too.”
We both looked down at her.
Yep. That cat was spectacularly pleased with herself.
“Oh God.” I shook my head. “What did you get us into?”
“I don’t know.” Then he grinned. “But I live with you, so I can handle a foul-tempered cat.”
“What?” He touched my cheek with his uninjured hand. “Don’t act like it isn’t true.” Before I could comment, he pushed himself up and kissed me, and damn it. I was almost as much of a sucker for that as I was for his puppy dog eyes.
“You’re lucky you’re cute, you know that?”
“Oh, I do.” He grinned. “I definitely—”
A thump turned both our heads, and I looked just in time to see a fluffy tail disappearing past the couch.
“Do I want to know where she’s going?”
“Probably not, but I think we better find out.” He stepped past me and jogged after her. “Harley? What are you getting into?”
“If she answers,” I called after him, “she’s going home right now.”
She didn’t answer, though, and neither did he.
But then something crashed, and Darren swore.
Oh for fuck’s sake.
What had we gotten ourselves into?